Sunday 15 April 2012

The Bloomberg Commission: Josiah McElheny: The Past Was A Mirage I’d Left Far Behind at the Whitechapel Gallery

The Bloomberg Commission: Josiah McElheny: The Past Was A Mirage I’d Left Far Behind
Whitechapel Gallery
7 September 2011 – 20 July 2012

The Whitechapel library was built in 1892 as a ‘lantern for learning,’ and its reading rooms did indeed bring Enlightenment values to many a poor Londoner. With this history in mind, New York-based sculptor, performance artist, writer and film maker, Josiah McElheny (born 1966), has used his current Bloomberg Commission to turn what is now an exhibition space in the Whitechapel Gallery into a hall of kaleidoscopic lights and mirrors, multiplying, distorting, and refracting his reconfigurations of experimental abstract films from early 20th century Europe.

The gallery is filled with seven large-scale sculptures, built out of flat mirrors, positioned at varying angles to white cloth projection screens, which the visitor can walk amongst, disoriented by the flickering lights and images, their inversions, reflections, and movements, becoming part of the larger work, as his image is also captured in and projected by the larger than life looking glasses.

During the silence, lines of bright white light shoot across the screens, moving fast, fragmenting, redirecting themselves. Flashes, like bursts of electrical current, charge in all directions, almost audibly fizzling, fusing, firing like neurons. On a small screen in the far corner, as part of a reconfiguration of a short film called Fragment, a full breasted torso is inverted and floats across the cloth, moving in and out of a geometric structure, echoic of the early Modernist architecture from the period of the films selected.

The most mesmerising segment is, however, Lichtertanz (‘Dance of lights’), in which, to a soundtrack of discordant piano music, lines and dots of light cavort here and there, escaping the boundaries of the screens and planes, reproducing, flickering, extinguishing, and renewing themselves. Some appear to be glowing match heads, others night-time street lights, emanating from their source projection, and enveloping the visitor in their other world magic, transporting him to a street lit city of yesteryear. Yes, it may all be a mirage, but, for the duration of your visit to the gallery, it is real. If this is the past, it has been captured and reborn, shattered and scattered, like figments of a dream, leaping for freedom and eternal existence beyond the confines of a solitary memory. Reinvented and relived, these bedazzling moments are shared and taken away by many a new memory holder.


Josian McElheny
The Past Was A Mirage I'd Left Far Behind
Installation View
Photo: Todd-White Art Photography

No comments:

Post a Comment